THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Economic Democracy for All

In the previous posting on this subject, we looked at how the ESOP — the Employee Stock Ownership Plan — invented by Louis O. Kelso as a way in which private sector corporate employees could become part owners of the companies that employed them without having to use (non-existent) past savings or take reductions in pay.

Louis O. Kelso


The problem, of course, is what about everybody else?  What about public sector workers or those in the non-profit sector?  What about people who can’t work, period?

To address that problem, the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) has proposed the “Economic Democracy Act” that would enable every person (even those who cannot work) to realize Kelso’s ultimate vision of equal access to capital ownership and private property as a fundamental human right.

Key to the “expanded ownership revolution” are the three principles of economic justice.  Kelso and Adler articulated these as interconnected systems principles in Chapter 5 of The Capitalist Manifesto.  CESJ later refined and integrated these principles into the social doctrine of Pius XI as analyzed by CESJ co-founder Father William Ferree.

Mortimer J. Adler


Like the three legs of a tripod, the three principles of economic justice operate together, providing the framework for a just and stable economic order.  Like a tripod, if even one principle is missing or violated, the structure collapses.  As refined by CESJ, the three essential principles of economic justice are:

Participative Justice.  This principle defines how one makes input to the economic process in order to make a living. It requires equal opportunity in gaining access to private property (control over, and enjoyment of the income from productive assets) as well as equality of opportunity to engage in productive work.  Participative justice does not guarantee equal results, but requires that every person be guaranteed by society’s institutions the equal human right to make a productive contribution to the economy, both through one’s labor (as a worker) and through one’s productive capital (as an owner).  This principle rejects monopolies, special privileges, and other social barriers to economic self-reliance and personal freedom.

Distributive Justice.  “The most classical form” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, § 201) of distributive justice, the out-take principle, is based on the exchange or market value of one’s economic contributions.  This is the principle that all people have a right to receive a proportionate, market-determined share of the value of the marketable goods and services they produce with their labor contributions, their capital contributions, or both.  This respects human dignity by making every producer’s and consumer’s economic vote count.


Fr. William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D.

Social Justice.  As the feedback and corrective principle, social justice governs participative and distributive justice, enabling both to operate properly.  Within an economic system, social justice restores balance between overall production and consumption.  It rebalances participative justice and distributive justice when the system violates either essential principle.  Social justice includes a concept of limitation that discourages personal greed and prevents monopolies and barriers to participation.

In general, social justice embodies the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity: every person has a moral responsibility to organize with others to correct organizations, institutions, laws, and the social order itself at every level whenever the principles of participative or distributive justice are violated or are not operating properly.  The application of social justice to the common good of specific economic institutions brings those institutions into conformity with the demands of the common good of all society.

These principles are also found in the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism, as outlined in the book, Economic Personalism: Property, Power and Justice for Every Person.  We also did a video review/interview about Economic Personalism a few days ago that might be useful to check out